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Thursday 23 October 2014

Dicing with Dragons

Dragon Slayer: The Dice Game with a Twist is a ‘Push Your Luck’ dice game released by Indie Boards & Cards, the publisher of notable titles such as The Resistance, Coup, and Flashpoint: Fire Rescue. Funded through Kickstarter, it is designed for two to five players, aged fourteen and more—though younger players could play it, and it can be played through in fifteen minutes or so.

In Dragon Slayer, each player is a doughty warrior, a fearless hunter of dragons, ready to be crowned ‘Master Slayer’. He must set out into the Mountains; locate each dragon’s Head to determine where it hunts, its Wings to see where it soars, and its Tail to find its lair; Axe in hand ready to slay the beasts and Shield held ready to withstand each dragon’s deadly Fire Breath. There are three dragons of increasingly difficult challenge—Blue, Green, and Red—that a slayer will need to kill again and again to be crowned ‘Master Slayer’. Unfortunately, every slayer has a certain pride and once he has one dragon kill under his belt, he can be goaded into continuing the hunt. Otherwise he will lose face (and points!). This is the ‘Twist’ of the title.

Dragon Slayer consists of twelve dice. Three dice for the Warriors, marked with Axe, Shield, and Fire Breath symbols; and three dice for each dragon, marked with Mountain, Dragon’s Head, Tail, and Wing, and Fire Breath symbols. There is a scoring track and tokens for each player to track his score, a simple chart to track each slayer’s hunt, and a Challenge Token for each player.

On his turn a player rolls both the Warrior dice and the three dice for the dragon he wants to hunt. His aim is to roll the Dragon’s Head, Tail, and Wings plus an Axe to kill the beast. As soon as any one of them is rolled, those dice are put aside and the player can keep rolling. Mountains and repeated results can be re-rolled. If the dragon rolls a Fire Breath—on the Dragon dice or the Warrior dice—the slayer can defend against with a rolled Shield on a one-for-one basis. If a slayer has not rolled any Shields, then he loses a Warrior dice for every unblocked Fire Breath dice. Once a slayer has lost all of his Warrior dice, his dragon hunt ends for that turn.  

Once a player has rolled a Dragon’s Head, Tail, and Wings plus an Axe to kill the beast, he can score it. Just two points for a Blue Dragon, four for a Green Dragon, and six for a Red Dragon. He can stop there or carry on, using any Warrior dice he has remaining plus the matching dice for the new dragon. He must defeat the other two dragons before he can attempt to slay again the type he just killed. Or another slayer could challenge him into carrying on. Refuse and the player loses half his points, the challenger scoring five points. Carry on and the slayer gets double points for every subsequent dragon slain, but if he fails at any time, he loses all points for that round! Each player only has one Challenge token, so it can only be used once.

For example, Debbie attempts to slay the Green Dragon. On the Warrior dice she rolls Axe, Shield, and Fire Breath, plus Mountains and Dragon’s Tail and Wings on the Dragon dice. She sets aside the Dragon’s Tail and Wings plus the Axe. Then she blocks the Fire Breath with the Shield and then rerolls the Shield, Fire Breath, and Mountain dice. The result is two Axes and a Dragon’s Head. This enough is to slay the Green Dragon and score Debbie two points.

Dave decides use his Challenge token to goad Debbie to continue, which she does against the Blue Dragon. This time she rolls Axe, Shield, and Shield on the Warrior dice, plus Mountains and Dragon’s Tail and Wings on the dragon dice. She sets aside the Dragon’s Tail and Wings plus the Axe. Rolling again, the result is a Dragon’s Head and an Axe and Shield, again enough to slay the Blue Dragon and score Debbie eight points—double the Blue Dragon’s value.

Debbie continues against the Red Dragon. This time she rolls Axe, Shield, and Fire Breath on the Warrior dice, plus Fire Breath and Dragon’s Head and Wings on the dragon dice. One Shield is used to block a Fire Breath, leaving one Fire Breath to get through. Debbie is forced to discard the Axe result, but can keep the Dragon’s Head and Wings. This leaves her one Dragon die and two Warrior dice to roll. This time Debbie rolls the needed Dragon’s Tail and an Axe, which scores her twelve points—again the Red Dragon’s value. Debbie has done well this time and was up to the challenge!

Once a player has scored forty points in slain dragons, play continues until everyone has had the same number of turns. The player with the most points scored wins and is crowned the ‘Master Slayer’.

Physically, Dragon Slayer is pretty little game, its artwork reminiscent of the Dragon’s Lair computer game of the early ‘80s. The dice in particular, are quite fine (though the standard retail version will lack the metallic inks etched into the dice), handle nicely, and have differently illustrated dragons. The rules feel underwritten and need a surprisingly careful read through given such a light game.

Easy to learn and quick to play, Dragon Slayer presents easy decisions—when to challenge, when to stop rolling, and which dragon to roll for. Do you roll for the Green Dragon and work up to Red or roll for Red and work down to Green as it is easier? Most likely a player will Challenge when another takes the lead and looks to be winning…

Of course Dragon Slayer feels not unlike Steve Jackson Games’ Zombie Dice, but it adds a decent twist and its genre is not as gruesome. Overall, Dragon Slayer: The Dice Game with a Twist is a nice filler and a nice addition to the ‘Push Your Luck’ style dice game.

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